The intensive care unit at Campbellton Regional Hospital is closed temporarily because of a lack of staff.
Vitalité Health Network announced Thursday the unit will be closed until Sept. 9 to allow the emergency department to stay open.
Last week, the hospital said it would be downsizing the obstetrics-gynecology unit and redeploying staff to the ER to address the staffing shortage at the northern New Brunswick hospital.
But in a news release Thursday, Vitalité said a number of steps need to be taken before beds in obstetrics can be reduced, and the effects of that downsizing would not be felt for a couple of weeks.
Vitalité president Dr. France Desrosiers said the closure of the ICU was needed to keep the ER running.
"This will free up skilled human resources to keep our Emergency Department open and free up medicine beds in order to implement our initial temporary bed reduction plan," she said in the release.
Desrosiers said 50 per cent of nursing positions at the hospital are vacant, and closing the ICU will allow the hospital to "keep the Emergency Department in Campbellton open, provide safe patient care and give our employees a modest break."
New Brunswick patients in the ICU will be transferred to either the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst or the Edmundston Regional Hospital.
Patients from Quebec or Listuguj First Nation will have a choice of being transferred to these hospitals or to one in Quebec.
Mayor, MLA concerned
Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau said he was worried about the closure and said it's a health hazard for the region.
"If something major happens, what will take place?" he asked. "The ICU is a very important part of the hospital. It's the second biggest thing after they come to the [ER]."
He said the closure is a blow to more than just the city, since the hospital serves the Restigouche region of New Brunswick and the Avignon region and the Listuguj First Nation in Quebec.
Guy Arseneault, the MLA for Campbellton-Dalhousie, said he was shocked to hear about the closure of the ICU.
He doesn't think the network has done enough to address the hospital's staffing problem.
"It's not something that just happened overnight, they knew it was coming," said Arseneault.
"Some of their statements have said, 'Well, [the shortage] has been there for three months.' It's been there for more than three months."
Arseneault said people in the region are losing confidence in the structure of Vitalité, and stressed the need for more administrative and recruitment resources based in Campbellton.
"I know students who come here and work during the summer and go back to study in medicine and [they're] never enticed to come back here," he said.
"They're never offered. No one speaks with them."